Trident Taskforce detectives this morning charged four men and seized $2,455,635 worth of illicit tobacco following an investigation into the importation and distribution of illicit tobacco products.
With assistance from Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police’s Operation Centinel, Taskforce ICARUS, the Department of Home Affairs and Fawkner Divisional Response Unit, seven search warrants were executed about 6am at four residential addresses in Fawkner (2), Wollert and Brunswick East, and three business premises in Campbellfield.
Police subsequently seized $195,000 cash, $2,455,635 in illicit tobacco (carton cigarettes), over 500kg of illicit loose-leaf tobacco (worth $126,500) and 224 boxes of molasses tobacco (worth $20,000).
Four men were arrested and interviewed in relation to the investigation.
A 79-year-old Wollert man was charged with the Commonwealth offences of seven counts of dealing with money to become an instrument of crime; eight counts of possessing tobacco products, knowing it was imported with the intention to defraud the revenue and three counts of aiding and abetting in the possession of tobacco products, knowing it was imported with the intention to defraud the revenue.
A 56-year-old Brunswick East man was charged with the Commonwealth offences of three counts of aiding and abetting in the possession of tobacco products, knowing it was imported with the intention to defraud the revenue.
A 25-year-old Fawkner man was charged with the Commonwealth offences of nine counts of possessing tobacco products, knowing it was imported with the intention to defraud the revenue and six counts of dealing with money to become an instrument of crime.
A 57-year-old Fawkner man was charged with the Commonwealth offences of five counts of possessing tobacco products, knowing it was imported with the intention to defraud the revenue and five counts of dealing with money to become an instrument of crime.
The quartet was bailed to appear at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 17 May.
The investigation commenced in 2018, when Trident Taskforce, with the assistance of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Australia Border Force Illicit Tobacco Task Force became aware of the activity of a group of individuals allegedly involved in the importation and distribution of contraband into Australia, and their association to organised crime groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
The investigation resulted in the seizure of $3,410,120.00 in cash, derived from the sale of illicit tobacco products.
Quotes attributable to Acting Commander, Peter Brigham, Crime Command:
“Today’s charges should send a strong message to others involved in this type of criminal behaviour. Law enforcement agencies continue to work together to identify, disrupt and prosecute those responsible for causing harm in the community.
“The sale of illicit tobacco and its links to further criminality, including organised crime groups, can have a significant negative impact on communities and businesses.
“Victoria Police will continue to be relentless in its investigation of this illicit trade and I assure the public that this will not be tolerated.
“The profit of illicit tobacco is usually funnelled back to organised criminal syndicates that are involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. I would encourage people to be aware of what they’re buying and its greater links to criminality.”
Quotes attributable to ABF Commander James Watson, Maritime and Enforcement South:
“Organised crime syndicates supply and control the illicit tobacco market in Australia and today’s charges are a significant blow to this trade in Victoria.
“The ABF works alongside its law enforcement partners to target the criminals who run the illicit tobacco market in Australia.
“Organised crime syndicates view illicit tobacco as low-risk and high-reward but today’s charges send the message to those criminals involved in the trade that law enforcement will catch up with them.
“The ABF will continue to disrupt and dismantle the organised crime syndicates behind the illicit tobacco market.”
Quotes attributable to Thomas Hester, Acting Executive Director Intelligence Operations at the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission:
“Serious and organised crime groups are more attracted to the Australian illicit tobacco market than ever before.”
“The ACIC works with our partners on a multi-faceted approach to tackling the illicit tobacco market and this includes the use of our expertise in intelligence and operational capability to form strategic insights.”
“Using our four pillars of core collection capabilities—coercive powers, technical intelligence capability, human intelligence capability and data analytics capability—we assist our partners to disrupt global to local criminal networks and to produce world-class transnational organised crime insight on illicit tobacco.”
Anyone with information on illicit tobacco activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au